"Five -- no, three pages into Amulet and you'll be hooked!" This is how the well known cartoonist Jeff Smith describes Kazu Kibuishi's graphic novel series Amulet, published by Scholastic since 2008. Indeed. The fantasy comic strip created for children ages 8-14 is not only masterfully drawn, but its storyline is gripping from the very outset. The seven New York Times bestselling books published thus far turn out to be page-turners for children and adults alike.
The first book starts with Emily Hayes, the series' hero, riding with her parents at night to pick up her brother, Navin. Trying to avoid a stopped car at a dangerous curve over a cliff, their vehicle falls off the road. Hanging over a deep precipice, Emily and her mother manage to get out of the car, but the father, stuck in the cabin, falls into his death.
Kibuishi, previously best known for editing the Flight anthology and creating the Copper cartoon, demonstrates a great feeling for timing and drama in the art of storytelling from the very outset, skillfully enticing the reader into the story.
Two years after the tragic event in the prologue, the family moves to an abandoned house in a small town, where the mother's grandfather, a disappeared puzzle maker, had once lived. Emily finds a necklace with a gem and puts it on, thus becoming a "stonekeeper," a fact that would later prove to be a doom as much as a blessing. The stone starts talking to her at night, thus initiating a long and complex relationship, or curse, which will take Emily to a succession of terrifying and amazing adventures. After being drawn by a noise from the basement, the mother is kidnapped by a monster and carried away. The three of them are thus drawn into a parallel universe, called Alledia.
There are many pagan symbols in the graphic novel, and the author's worldview seems to be greatly influenced by the modern digital world saturated by frequently ominous fantastic images, but what the series succeeds in getting across to the young readers is the vile, cunning nature of evil spirits that have to be fought with courage and reliance on friends. In this respect, it is immediately reminiscent of Harry Potter, whose book covers Kibuishi memorably illustrated.
Kazu Kibuishi was born in Tokyo in 1978, but moved to the United States at the age of four. He has a degree in film studies from University of California Santa Barabara. He is married to fellow illustrator and collaborator Amy Kim Ganter. His artistic style and storytelling is obviously influenced by the prominent film creators of the previous generation, the masters of fantasy Steven Spielberg and Hayao Miyazaki, but it doubtlessly original as well. His penchant for painting is obvious in the occasional two-page images without text, which usually depict the approach to a new futuristic city. Its colouring, mostly done by his wife, is admirable.
Kibuishi is currently working on the eight installment, and the series is set to have nine.